Opening the farm gate and larder door: Travelling with ASD and GAPS


“What do you eat then?”  In 2009 my family made the decision to become grain-free and eat according to GAPS protocol.  This decision was made to support my son’s health.  My experience has been liberating – on a number of levels.

Yes, this way of life brings limitations in some regards to the types of foods we eat (it was a sad day when I said goodbye to the morning toast and I often, still, look longingly at the sushi bar).  Yet my body feels more vibrant and my son’s health continually improves.

A grain-free lifestyle has opened me to a nourishing food portal that I never knew existed.  It has in fact been a dietary extension, as opposed to restriction; an ushering into a world of fermentation, slow foods, organic produce, artisan cuisine.  It has been an embracing of a lifestyle where I have consciously chosen to re-prioritize my time and re-define my role as a mother; to let go of resistance and tension on the time lapse in providing nourishing food and instead assume the role nurturer.  I have made a conscious decision to dedicate myself to serving wholesome helpings as opposed to slapping down nutrient empty plates of stuff.   (In saying that, I am also into simplicity and ease).  It is a world that I, and my children, particularly my son, have fallen in love with and desire to explore more.

Another love for me is travel –  I love the sense of adventure and exploration it imbues into my suburban life.   I love exposing my senses to wondrous new landscapes, ways of being, other people’ stories.  This sensitive soul needs connection with nature and thrives on cultural exploration. So can all these elements merge?

How does one actually travel, whilst on GAPS, with an ASD child under wing?  At the onset all these elements seem juxtaposed. GAPS involves a certain level of food preparation consciousness, time, and resources.  ASD children typically thrive on structure and routine.  Travel imbues the unknown and elements of chance and discovery.  So can all these elements work together to create a successful adventure for all?  In my experience, yes! 

In fact, the dietary consciousness has required me to seek at a deeper level within the tapestry of life.   Whole foods are often more intrinsically linked with the land and the hands that produce it.  Local cuisine – true local cuisine and the way people share food – often allow one to experience the textures and tastes those on a “normal diet” may just skid over. It also forces you to ask questions about what you are eating, what is it made of, where did it come from.  For me this all weaves into the story of the place we are visiting. Traveling with kids in general (let alone sensory children) invokes the need to continually stop, rest, play – usually pit stops for our family involve green areas, water expanses – nature.  And so this slower rhythm invites opportunities to experience and see what may have just blurred past enroute.  (There is so much great research on the benefits of nature and children – particularly kids with ASD – particularly boys – see links).

My experience then is that not only do these elements actually congregate – they can enhance a travel experience. They offer portals into a deeper resonance of life; a more harmonious experience (as opposed to entirely stress free – you are traveling and with kids!) – and a more economical adventure as well.

Here are some general travel tips (more in the great blog post in Nourishing Kitchen):

Research.  Stock Up.

Leaving from a home base and driving is always easier.  I depart with a boot filled with stock supplies (in a chiller/on ice).

If I am traveling to somewhere further afield to somewhere I have never been before, or flying into somewhere, I do a little more research before I depart. I love the unknown adventure aspect of travel – yet with kids, particularly ASD kids, I also need to be grounded and assured. This frees up my stress levels which then enables me to respond more evenly to their demands and reflects to them a sense of confidence and ease.  Having a general idea of what is where has come in handy for me.

I should also note that, to date, I have always had my own transport.  Hiring a car and driving for my crew is the best option. It not only affords the freedom to go wherever and stop whenever needed, it also enables me to carry more food supplies.  Again, this comes down to managing everyones needs and reducing stress!  I am sure there will come a time when this is not an option, then I will need to think differently and breathe  … more!

In regards to research I look into where the nearest grocery store to pick up stock supplies as well as health food shops where I can buy smaller, fresher quantities in bulk – nuts, seeds, buckwheat, almond meal.  I also buy my spices in bulk.  Spices add nutrients and variety into meals and buying small spoonfuls (as opposed to jar/packet) enables me to purchase smaller quantities which is more economical and creates less waste and travel weight/space.   I also look into farmers markets, when are they on, where are they on.  What is the local delicacies, where is it sold, when is the farm open?  Again, not only does buying at markets and direct from farmers mean fresher, more reasonably priced produce it will also open a window into the local landscape and extends opportunity to talk to the farmers themselves.  Information such as this has often shaped my itinerary yet I also keep my eye out for roadside stalls and farms along the way.

I also seek out a thrift shop to purchase cutlery; knife; chopping board; plates; cups, containers for snacks, and even a thermos so I can have that cup of tea that I know I will need whilst traveling with children?  If leaving from home I obviously pack all my gear – if not buying secondhand wares is a cheap, sustainable option and save on luggage weight.  I keep “the kitchen” in a box, separate from the rest of our luggage and easily accessible. I also purchase a cooler bag and ice bricks to keep the cold things fresh.

We stay at places with a kitchenette (or camp cooking facilities)

This allows me to not only cook the meal of an evening, breakfast of a morning, it also means I can prepare snacks throughout the day.  Both healthier and more economical.

Plan for lots of picnics

As mentioned above children, by nature, need to move their bodies and play.  Stopping often to allows sates this desire freedom meaning a less stressful journey for all.  If the kids are engaged and playing then I too am awarded space to relax and enjoy the surrounds.  I have learnt to not focus on getting from A to B and instead focus on keeping everyone’s stress levels down.  This is particularly important for ASD families.

A picnic in a park for us may be – vegetables charred on a BBQ grill; chicken skewers; steaks; omelet; stir-fry; fish wrapped in foil with lemon; cauliflower fried-rice.  Roast pumpkin wrapped in foil and serve with salt, herbs, ghee or coconut oil.  Serve with  a salad – buy a bootle of apple cider vinegar to dress or lemon juice and olive oil.  Focus is nutrient dense and simple.

Set your Intent

It is amazing how the universe actually provides.  With sounding whimsical, this actually works.

Make life easy and delicious!

Don’t let dietary requirements (or ASD) restrict your sense of adventure.  Allow it to draw you into a more connected experience and a deeper sense of resonance with the land you are travelling, its produce, and the hands which craft it.

This entry was published on October 9, 2012 at 7:26 pm. It’s filed under Autism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s